13 – 18 July, 2014
Air Temperatures – Mid 80’s
Water Temperature – 82F
Easterly wind speeds started out between 10 – 20 knots at the beginning of the week, and to 5 – 15 knots for the middle of the week. On Friday it picked up again to 10 – 20 knots, giving us good surface conditions for most of the week and allowing us to do weather-permitting dives at Lighthouse Reef and The Elbow here at Turneffe. Dive crew for the week was Divemaster Denroy, and Carlton (AKA Capt), as Boat Captain.
Sparkling visibility of 80 feet greeted us for the first day of diving to the west at North and South Creekozene, and Black Pearl. Although it started out as partly cloudy, by 11am giant thunderheads moved in and brought a thunderstorm which lasted for about 20 minutes and left cloudy skies for the rest of the day. A Hawksbill Turtle was spotted right away at the beginning of the first dive. Both Nassau and Black Groupers were plentiful on these sites as well.
With surface conditions still a little choppy on the east side of the atoll, we headed for the northwest on Monday, and visited Terrace, Mandy’s Dandy, and Elkin’s Bay finding visibility of 60 feet. Weather reports called for thunderstorms again, but we were lucky and conditions remained only partly cloudy. Dive sightings for the day yielded two Spotted Eagle Rays, four Green Moray Eels, Cubera and Dog Snappers, a large Channel Clinging Crab hidden in a coral hole, a number of Spider Crabs (differing from the Channel Clinging Crabs in that their claws are much smaller), and a positively huge Hawksbill Turtle whose shell measured over 40 inches across. Denroy started out to make the first dive a five-Hamlet dive, and he was able to point out Black, Shy, Barred, Indigo, and Shy Hamlets. Then, on the last dive, he spotted the uncommon Yellow Belly Hamlet.
Gentle 4-foot swells and 10 – 15 knots of breeze greeted us on Tuesday morning for our 1-hour journey to Lighthouse Reef atoll, and skies remained mostly sunny for the day. Although we went to Lighthouse Reef for the day, divers decided not to do the Blue Hole, and to do all three dives between the Half Moon Caye wall area, and western Long Caye wall area where divers found 60 feet of visibility. As our first dive site, we chose Painted Wall at west Long Caye, a site which is usually the last of three dives done on the atoll for most day boats visiting the area. Since it was our first, we were alone with no other divers in the area. Three Spotted Eagle Rays gliding together passed divers along this shallow wall, resident Black Groupers eyed divers cautiously, and Denroy pointed out the delicate translucent Painted Tunicates growing along the wall here. Half Moon Caye Wall was the second location for diving, where four types of groupers were identified – Black, Nassau, Yellow Fin, and Tiger. Barracudas and Spotted Eagles Rays showed up, a chunky Permit, and Southern Stingrays nuzzled in the sand bed as divers ascended to their safety stop. No trip to Lighthouse Reef would be complete without a lunch stop at Half Moon Caye to see the Red-Footed Booby Bird Sanctuary, view the turtle nesting area, and walk around this enchantingly beautiful caye. Not being satisfied with a lack of shark sightings for the day, divers requested Denroy take them back to the wall south of the caye where they descended on The Chimney for dive three. They weren’t disappointed as three Caribbean Reef Sharks did several swim-bys giving divers an eyeful of sharks to last the whole week. Queen Trigger Fish and Nassau Groupers followed divers along the wall, and more Southern Stingrays foraged in the sand bed adjacent to the wall.
Wednesday was a particularly lovely day with sunny skies, 5 – 10 knots of gentle breeze and small swells coming from the east. These calm conditions allowed us to dive Lindsay’s Back Porch and Lettuce Lane to the northeast for the first time in a few weeks. Mature sized Blue Parrots with their distinctive nose humps chomped at the white sand bottom near the edge of the wall, a large Green Moray Eel swam at a diver’s camera lens as if mesmerized by its own image reflected there, and a hulking King Fish swam by dives at close range along the walls edge. A large, fully developed Rainbow Parrot scooted by, schools of Mahogany and School Master Snapper hovered over the reef as divers glided past, and a White Spotted Toadfish glowered at divers from its lair at the bottom of a Giant Barrel Sponge. The Night Dive departed the dock at 6:15pm, and returned an hour later with reports of Caribbean Reef Squid sightings, more Spider Crabs, and Caribbean Spiny Lobster juveniles. They also came across a huge cloud of sand left from a recently departed ray, which must’ve been quite large owing to the size of the hole it had dug, and the divers seemed to have missed this sighting by only seconds.
The Elbow was scheduled for Thursday morning, and the surface conditions just about made it possible as swell size had increased overnight, and partly cloudy skies prevailed. Divers seem to have got the “kitchen sink” in terms of sightings for this dive with visibility at 60 feet – schooling Dog and Cubera Snapper, Great Barracudas, Nassau and Black Groupers, two Hawksbill Turtles, and three Spotted Eagle Rays. Then, at the safety stop, schooling Permit, a monster Wahoo, and a bonus – Bottle Nose Dolphins! They couldn’t have asked for more. With stars still in their eyes, Denroy took the divers to Snake Point and Pine Ridge on the west side of the atoll for the remaining two dives of the day, where they found a brilliantly coloured juvenile Queen Angel, schooling Horse Eye Jacks, and schools of Mackrel Scad darting by over the wall. And there’s more – on the way home, they came across a massive Manatee on the surface in the Creekozene Channel.
For the last day of diving on Friday, we had a sunny day accompanied by increased wind speeds of 10 – 20 knots. We headed west and then north, starting with Midpoint and travelling up to Chasbow’s Corner, and then Tunnels & Barrels. Huge schools of medium-sized Horse Eye Jacks swam lazily back and forth over the wall’s edge at Chasbow’s Corner. In the midst of the Jack, as if hiding, was a medium sized Amber Jack, with its distinct dark band through its eye. Silversides were seen everywhere as if all spawning activities in the Spring had produced their results and the hatchlings were now growing. Of course this had the Bar Jacks and other such predators darting anxiously around every reef head, stalking and ready for unwary youngsters. And, as if the sightings for the week couldn’t get any better, a Nurse Shark was spotted exiting its hiding place in one of the swim-throughs at Tunnels & Barrels, swimming off into the deep down the wall, just as divers were making their safety stop at the end of the dive. What a way to end a wonderful week of diving.